Vaccination information for parents & young people

Keeping your child healthy is bound to be at the forefront of your mind. Children will get colds and sniffles. They will cope quite well with love and care but they need help to fight off more serious infections. One way to gain protection comes from vaccination. Vaccinations can protect a child against diseases into adulthood.

What is vaccination?

Vaccination protects children and adults against harmful infections. Vaccinations help to stop the infection before they come into contact with the infection in the community.

Vaccination uses the body’s natural defence mechanism. The immune response, to build resistance to specific infections.

Your doctor, practice nurse or school nurse will usually give a vaccine.

Why get children vaccinated?

In the first months of a baby’s life they are protected from most infections by antibodies. These antibodies are provided by their mothers and are transferred during pregnancy.

When these antibodies wear off, the baby is at risk of serious infections. The first vaccines are given before these antibodies have gone.

These first vaccinations do not build lifelong immunity and need topping up.

As children get older and reach their teens there are other infections they are at risk from. Further vaccination is available to protect them.

What vaccinations do children need and when should they have them?

In England information about free immunisation can be found on the NHS website. NHS vaccinations schedule.

In the related links on this page you will also find a useful schedule of vaccinations over a lifetime to print out, which includes information on vaccinations available to pregnant women.

Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccination

Measles, mumps, and rubella are common highly infectious viruses. These viruses are airborne and can cause conditions with high temperatures and nasty rash. They can lead to serious complications such as meningitis, swelling of the brain (encephalitis) and deafness. Children can be protected by having two doses of MMR vaccine. It's important to make sure your children are up-to-date with the MMR vaccination before starting school. For more information please visit the NHS Choices website.

Teenage Booster Vaccine

The teenage booster (known as the 3-in-1 or the Td/IPV vaccine) is given as a single injection to boost the protection against tetanus, diphtheria and polio. This booster jab is given by school nurses at schools along Meningitis jab at the same time. For more information please visit the NHS Choices website.

Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine for girls in Year 8

Cervical cancer is the most common type of cancer for women aged under 35. The HPV jab will give protection against HPV which causes 70% of cervical cancer. This vaccination is offered to girls in Year 8 by school nurses through the school. The HPV vaccine is currently given as two injections, the second one is given six months after the first jab. For more information, please visit the NHS Choices website.

MenACWY vaccine

Teenagers and "fresher" students going to university for the first time are advised to have a vaccination to prevent meningitis and septicaemia, which can be deadly.

Cases of meningitis and blood poisoning (septicaemia) caused by a highly virulent strain of Men W bacteria have been rising since 2009.

Older teenagers and new university students are at higher risk of infection because many of them mix closely with lots of new people, some of whom may unknowingly carry the meningococcal bacteria at the back of their noses and throats.

Anyone who is eligible for the MenACWY vaccine should have it, even if they've previously had the Men C vaccine.

The MenACWY vaccine is highly effective in preventing illness caused by the four meningococcal strains, including the virulent Men W strain. The MenACWY vaccine is given by a single injection into the upper arm. This vaccine protects against four different strains of the meningococcal bacteria that cause meningitis and blood poisoning (septicaemia). The four different strains are A, C, W and Y. The MenACWY vaccine is called Nimenrix. Read the patient information leaflet for Nimenrix (PDF, 385kb).

The MenACWY vaccination is being offered to teenagers and first-time college and university students who haven't already had the vaccination.

Children aged 13 to 14 (school year 9) are being offered the MenACWY vaccine in school as part of the routine adolescent schools programme. This is alongside the 3-in-1 teenage booster, and as a direct replacement for the Men C vaccination.

Last reviewed: 15/08/2023